Pods and Pessimism

It’s been a bit since my last blog, it’s almost the end of June, and well, it makes sense to simply write a blog that summarizes my month.  After all, this blog really has been more of a personal blog than anything else.

And it has indeed has been a significant month for me, I suppose.

June 1 was my birthday.  It always is.  I feel a little older this year, maybe because I am playing on a softball team again this year.  Last year, I didn’t play at all, the first summer in a long long long long LONG time that I haven’t swung a bat.  Last year was a transition year for me, a year where life changed simply because a job of almost 25 years ended most dramatically.  Maybe it makes sense that baseball changed also.  I had to be happy with being a fan.  And that year off of playing the game was not good for me, especially since I am 54 years old now.  Normally an exceptional hitter (seriously), my groove didn’t appear much at all at the plate during the months of May and June (although my glove was still very good except for a game or two).  But just as I was feeling older, this past Thursday’s game found me hitting the ball on a line and where I wanted it to go, to the tune of a 4 for 4 night at the plate.  Throws to first base had that old zing.  Just as I was thinking I need to toss it in, the old Steve showed up (maybe that wasn’t the best way to say it).

This June has been a month of constant precipitation in Chicagoland.  That makes me cranky, but not literally because I haven’t been able to crank.. my mountain bike.  We are getting rain every day, so the trails are not drying out.  Arghhhh.  It means I have had to ride my (gasp) ROAD BIKE.

Alyssa, my 19 year old daughter, was only home from college for a week and a half.  I and Miriam drove her to her job as a summer camp counselor three weeks ago.  She trained for two weeks, just completed her first full week of camp as a counselor this week.  her first week was with junior high age girls.  She is good with that age group and the pictures she posted on FB yesterday were fabulous.  They had a great time.  My little girl rocks as a camp counselor.

Geez, do I miss my little girl.  I think I need her around more than ever right now.  Daughters love their dad, have stars in their eyes for their old pop.  There has never been a doubt about the encouragement she brings to me when I get to spend time with her.  I need that right now.

On the way home from driving Alyssa to her camp counseling job, I broke the news to Miriam.  I want a divorce.  I told her that I have already talked to a divorce mediator and want her to visit that mediator with me for a consult.  She will not agree, wants us to go back to counseling.  Mir called me a child, told me I am making a rash decision, told me that I have no grounds, questioned that I have even thought about the consequences a divorce will bring.  There were no tears on her part.  I wept while I listened to her.  At the end, she told me that I was going to find a counselor for us.

There have been several discussions since then, basically treading the same water we have been treading for roughly the last decade.  I realized that I have told her what has been bothering me for a long time, and she to me, and nothing has changed.  Right now, I am struggling with feeling the legitimacy of what she is telling me.  I hear excuses.  That bothers me.  I need to see where I have fallen and deal with that, see if it is possible to make that right.

And I want to leave.  I don’t see my wife taking me seriously at all.

Finally, I need to apologize to those who actually read my blog.  I have done a lot of complaining here.  This will be the last blog I am going to write here about my relationship struggles.  I do need to write them down, but not here.

I want to close tonight’s blog on a positive note, because there is a bit of positive right now.  It’s summer.  That means my now 16 year old son, who reached that milestone two weeks ago, is not stressing about school.  That conflict is gone for a few months.  It also means that he is not on his ADHD meds, so he is far less aggressive.  And this month has found him beginning to treat me like his father.  I am cautiously optimistic.. and wondering if I should risk rocking the boat by going forward with marriage separation.  Seems a bit selfish when I add him into the consideration.  We went to a baseball game at Wrigley last week, witnessed close up the incident where a father feeding his baby son stood up to catch a foul ball, interfering with the first baseman.  We are watching baseball together, talking and he is actually cooperating with me.  Miracles.  They may be short lived, but they are miracles.  He is listening to me, doing what I ask and when I ask.

Wait, what is that odd podlike structure in my back yard?

Shifted Priorities

There is not much that will keep me from riding my bicycle on the weekend.  Usually it has to either be severe weather or a family commitment.

Or yard work.

We all should be familiar with my obsession over lawn lines after my recent blog regarding that subject.  That obsession extends into the length of grass and not letting it grow beyond three days during the growing season.  This time of year is when it rains almost every day in Chicagoland.  The temperatures are consistently into the 80 and 90 degree range.  Everything grows to jungle proportions.  If I don’t mow my lawn every three days, I hear monkeys screeching in my yard.  I swear, it’s true.

The bushes in front of my house had grown so much that I practically had to climb on the roof of my two story house to trim them.  Grass had grown over the sidewalk, rendering the power edger almost useless, making a shovel the preferred method of taming the overgrowth.  A decorative vine next to the garage had ventured inside and was threatening to strangle me in my sleep.

Only it’s evil chuckle as it hovered over my sleeping form saved me, my trusty shears stored in my bed stand at the ready.  Today I am still bewildered as to how that nefarious vine slipped past the watchful eye of my faithful Sheltie.  Biscuit crumbs next to the door give me a good idea of how that happened.  Bribes work especially on Nick the Sheltie.

Five hours of intense yard labor, a necessary safety precaution, is what kept me from my bicycle on Saturday.  Soaked with sweat when finished, I retreated safely to the shower and then to the calm of a baseball game as I napped on the couch, an eye open in case the vine reanimated.

Sunday my son turned 16.  Escaping forever on my bicycle was the temptation when I awoke yesterday morning.  Instead, I reserved my energy for the day ahead.   Church.  Lunch with the boy and his mother.  An adventure in the passenger seat of his mother’s car as the new driver negotiated the busy streets of west Chicagoland (not as bad as it sounds.. but we left his mother to shop while we motored).  Fun shopping for baseball jerseys at a new fan apparel store.  Nine holes of twilight golf, a fantastic time with a boy who suddenly figured out it’s more fun to golf when relaxed.

No bike.  And it’s freaking pouring rain today.

The vine just texted me.  Uh oh.  Time to buy some Round Up and a squirt gun…..

Bronze League

3013The city I live in is official.

We’re bicycle friendly.

So cool.

Ever since the BPAC (Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission) was established ten years ago, when our mayor took office, one of the goals of our commission was to achieve the Bicycle Friendly designation.  Twice our city has received honorable mention.  Being designated adds value to our community, brings attention to the efforts we truly have made to make our city a place that encourages bicycling.

Getting to this point meant developing a three phase plan that improved existing bike paths, added a network of paths and bike lanes, increased signage.  Our community has implemented to the third phase the plan that our committee developed.  Events and educational programs at our elementary schools have been established.  An annual bike safety fair was started several years ago, originally fully planned and staffed by our committee and now is run by our city park district, had over 250 participants a few weeks ago.  At that fair, 30 new bicycles were given to children and we inspected/repaired over 100 bicycles at no charge.  The application for bicycle friendly designation is a very involved 30 page document.

Our mayor came to our commission meeting tonight, a proud smile on his face as he presented the first of the signs announcing our designation to be posted along the paths and bicycle lanes in our city.

I was one of three commissioners chosen to complete this year’s application.  Dang.  Makes me feel very good.  We met twice a month for six months as we gathered the data for the application, decided who would complete the sections of the application.

If you ever make it to Warrenville, Illinois look for the signs.  You know someone who made them possible!

Bumps

No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises

No matter the hurt, and still the truth is

The cross has made you flawless

Every morning I wake up with a song in my head.  Without fail.  Music is a large part of my existence, an appreciation picked up from growing up in a family that always had music playing (or were making their own music).  Usually I don’t notice the song until I get to the bathroom for a shower or am sitting at the kitchen table with my coffee.  Rarely is the song the same each morning.

It always is a song that reminds me of God’s presence, however.  Why is that?

And usually it is relevant to a need in my life at the time.

Lately the same song has greeted me each morning.  I think I know why.  I really need to feel the grace of God right now.  I need encouragement.  I need to feel like I am going to be OK in God’s eyes no matter what I do.

No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises.

A reminder.

The song is playing constantly on K-LOVE, one of the radio stations I listen to now and then.  I did this morning on my way to the mountain bike trails this morning.. and was already singing the song before I turned on the radio.  As soon as I hit the power button, on came the song that I woke up singing.

And it played again on my way home.

Bumps and bruises are what I am feeling right now.. literally.  Physically, I worked four hard hours this morning clearing sight lines with a lopper and hand saw on the trails at Saw Wee Kee, a place that is becoming more and more my favorite place to be.  I volunteered for a trail maintenance work day, giving a little back.  It has been a while since I have been soaked head to toe with sweat.

Emotionally, I am feeling the bruises and am preparing myself for tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the day when Miriam and I are going to have our talk.  Unless a total, flat out miracle occurs, I am going to ask her for that divorce that we talked about a few weeks ago.  Oddly, I am both looking forward to it and dreading telling her.

I wonder what song will be in my head tomorrow morning.  My guess is a Casting Crowns song…..

———–

If you haven’t heard the Mercy Me song “Flawless”, look it up.  You will be encouraged no matter what you believe.

And rather than simply remember the words, here are the full lyrics.

Theres got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
Cause we were taught thats who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking theres worth in what you do

Then like a hero who takes the stage when
Were on the edge of our seats saying its too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

Could it possibly be
That we simply cant believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But thats exactly what He did

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now Im ok
Because the cross was enough

And like a hero who takes the stage when
Were on the edge of our seats saying its too late
Well let me introduce you to grace grace
Gods grace

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless
He made you flawless

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

Lawn Stripes

I just finished mowing the lawn.  I love the satisfaction I feel right after I shut the mower’s engine down, push it into the shed, pull my boots off and place them on the shelf in the shed, then savor the feel of the soft even carpet of damp grass under my bare feet as I walk around the yard.  There is a distinct pleasure, close to erotic, as the fresh scent fills my lungs while my eyes take in the lines left across the lawn — straight patterns that criss cross each other, a result of my diligence to never mow the same direction twice in a row.  Learned as a boy when I mowed lawns for spending money, I discovered that mowing in the same direction every time makes the grass lay down instead of standing up.  The lawns I mowed always looked good from the street, earning me more business as the carefully manicured lawns provided the advertisement I needed.

First cut of the season is always horizontal, side to side and parallel to the house.  Second cut is always vertical, then corner to corner, then corner to corner in the opposite direction.  I may not do anything else to perfection in my yard, but the lawn is as close to perfection as I am going to get.

The walks and driveway are swept, then I take it all in again as I drink a cold bottle of water on the front porch.  After my shower, I sneak another peak out the back window, enjoying the crisp lines of the cut again.  I know by the next morning, especially during the cool, wet suburban Chicagoland Spring weather, the grass will have already grown enough to mask the perfection of the new cut.  Two days later I will be thinking of getting the mower out again.

Geez… I must be getting old….

Leap

There are times when it is necessary to climb on to my roof, whether it be to clean the gutters or fix a loose shingle or even patch a hole, I have to go up there.  The thought doesn’t seem awful at all, the roof of my two story house not all that tall from a ground perspective.  A trip up the ladder won’t be bad, a simple task, no anxiety required.  Then I start up the ladder, get half way up, look down.

Uh oh.  Suddenly the ground looks a long way down.

If I manage to coax my way up to the roof, a task this height chicken sometimes is not able to accomplish, it is done after I stand frozen in place on one rung of the ladder.  Getting to the top is often managed one rung at a time, a pause at each rung with a look down at the menacing precipice below.  Heaven forbid that the ladder shakes or leans at all.  That could send me scurrying down to safety.

Eventually I do make it to the roof.  I have to.  There is a task to be resolved up there.  I am a task oriented guy.

If I sit in the middle, look straight out while enjoying the view, take everything around me in without looking over the edge, I am fine.  There are beautiful open fields to the west and north, spectacular really, worth the trip up the ladder (or out the second floor window — the way I sometimes cheat using the ladder).  Then the task calls me away from the revelry, reminds me that I am up there for another reason.  Inevitably, I stand up, shaky from the reminder of where I am at as well as the instability of the sloped roof.  Then the voice in my head taunts me, that voice that is both reason and temptation, the one that wants me to learn something by confronting what is making me uncomfortable.

Go to the edge.  Look down.

Without fail, I listen to that voice.

I shuffle to the edge.

I look down.

My head swims.

I am scared.  I try to tell myself that I am not afraid, but I am.  I force myself to stand there.  I have to stay.  No matter how high it seems, I tell myself that I am in no danger.

Why is there always that urge to jump?  Why is there that fleeting thought that I might just be able to fly?  I wonder if I could avoid serious injury if I accidentally fell, do one of those slick somersaults just as I reach the ground.  The voice in my head reminds me that I am not Rambo.

Yesterday I sat in the waiting room of a law office.  I felt like I was standing at the edge and looking down.  I had forced myself to the edge and was about to take a step off.  My head was swimming.  Nausea crept in.  Resolve told me to stay put, do not walk back out that office door.  I needed to learn.  I needed to conquer the fear that had kept me from that precipice in the past.  I had climbed the ladder, rung by painfuly slow rung.  Now I needed to focus on the task.

I visited with an attorney mediator for a new concept called Wevorce.  Their approach is to guide a divorcing couple through a series of meetings using software that prepares them to eventually file for divorce.  The goal is to have an amicably agreed upon settlement and terms drawn up at the end of the process.  The mediator sits in between at each meeting.  There is a flat rate agreed upon with the attorney mediator after the first consultation.

My next trip up the ladder will be to get my wife to the mediator.

One rung at a time.  One.

Four

This weekend was a four day weekend, not a three day as most are going to say.  Why?  Four rides.  Four.

All on my favorite trails and each with something unique about them.

Friday night.  Fast with the intent of getting a strong workout in before dark.  That ride concluded with an impromptu party in the parking lot at the end with the trail regulars.  I am now in.  They called me over to offer a beer to me, the price being the telling of the story of the wrong shoes.

Saturday morning.  Heart pounding warmup, followed by guiding a father and son through the trail system, then meeting little blue eyed Katherine and her family.  I have been smiling about the sweet innocent offering of fruit treats from confident Katherine ever since then.

Sunday afternoon.  My friend Jon texted me around noon to call me out to the trails before the predicted rain came in.  Jon is one of the best bicycle riders I know, whether on the road or trail, and we put two solid hours of trail riding in.  At the end, we had to deal with light rain, managed to load up our bikes moments before the deluge hit.

Monday morning.  This morning.  My friend Jim asked if I would meet him for a trail ride.  I had contacted him last week after the fateful Monday evening blow up with Miriam.  This morning’s ride was on our calendars since last Tuesday.  Even though it was a rainy morning, Jim insisted that we ride, so we braved the sometimes slick trails and kept to the double track once the rain started coming down steadily.

My ride this morning was less about the ride and showing off my new bike as it was a time for Jim to lend his ear to me.  Jim and I share similar faith in God, have supported each other a lot over the years.  I lent him my ear during his divorce and through each girlfriend since then (got to laugh at that.. Jim is very selective, a good looking successful guy.. he has had a lot of girlfriends the last six years).  I have learned a lot about the ups and downs and struggles and victories a divorced man faces by knowing Jim like I do.

I have a consultation with a divorce lawyer and mediator tomorrow.  Yes.  I have taken the next step, want to find about more of what might be to come.  This does not mean I am taking that step, but it does mean that I am serious.

Something tells me that four days weekends are going to be very important and necessary for me.

The Magic of Fruit Treats

Four day weekends are the absotutely fer sure best.  Any weekend that promises the opportunity to ride four times is a four day weekend, no matter whether it starts at 4:30 PM on Friday or not.  Mine did.

Mine started Friday evening with a fast fly around the single track dirt trails at my favorite place in the world — Saw Wee Kee park.  One of the perks of riding there on a Friday evening is that most of the regulars ride, then hang out in the parking lot for an impromptu party.  I have joined the ranks of the regulars now, with a bit of respect garnered from being one of the older guys who can hold his own.  One rider, Ernesto, makes sure he has a cold Not Your Father’s Root Beer ready for me, the cap off and handed to me as I roll off the trail, the only price being that he gets to tell the story of the night I brought one shoe with my road cleat on it.

This morning was one of the better rides I have had at Saw Wee Kee.  My routine is to ride a loop to the back of the park to warm up, return to the parking lot to catch my breath and head back in.  When I rolled off the trail this morning, I met a father with his 12 year old son who were at Saw Wee Kee for the first time.  He wanted to know what trails were the best in the park.  I volunteered to lead them rather than try to tell them where to go, an offer they gladly accepted.  Our ride turned into a bit of a training ride, my limited knowledge surprisingly more than what I thought, and I had a lot of fun watching both father and son improve as we rode.  Ray, who turned out to be just a few years younger than me, worked hard but crashed several times.  He earned quite a bit of respect from Chris, his 12 year old son, something I was thrilled to see.  Frankly, I was a bit jealous!

The best part of my morning came at the end of the ride.  Several times along the trail we saw a young couple, the mother with a two year old boy in a sling on her back, a little blonde haired girl chugging enthusiastically on her tiny bicycle between them.  They weren’t riding the technical trails, just the transition double track, but it still was not totally simple riding.  Every time I saw them, it put a smile on my face.

The mom was putting her little boy in the back of her car as I finished my ride.  She told me that her daughter wanted to ride a little more with her husband.  I had to let her know how impressed I was, especially after she told me that they had braved some of the twisty and difficult trails, even though they had to walk at points.  While we talked, her little girl pedaled up to us with her father, a broad smile on her face.  She was proud to tell me how much she liked to ride.  I asked her how old she was.

Four.

Patrick, her father, told me his daughter had been riding her little bike without training wheels since she was two years old.  TWO!  He was justifiably proud of his little girl, beaming as I expressed my appreciation for the ride his little girl had just done.  It was impressive.  We talked a little by my car, Patrick asking about the bike rack that I use.

Katherine announced to me without any hint of bashful — the girl talked to me like she knew me forever — that she is four years old.  I loved the way she told me her name, her chest puffed a little as she answered my question.20150523_174523

What really made my day was when Katherine approached me, then handed me a package of fruit treats.

“These are for you, Steve.”

“For me?”

“Yes.  Please take them.  We have lots and I bet you need energy.”

“Thank you.  This is the nicest thing to happen to me today.”  And she smiled the cutest little smile for me. I made sure I ate one as she watched.

“See?  I bet you have more energy now.”  Katherine took my hand to lead me back to their car, where her mother had a nice picnic lunch ready for her family.  I shared some time with them, found out where they live and a little about their lives.

What a treat!

1000 Steps Backward

My son played the second and third rounds of his high school conference tennis tournament tonight.  After winning the first round last Friday with little fanfare, a two set sweep, he lost both matches he played tonight.  Both the opponents he played tonight he had beaten in a tie break during the season.  Nate was third seed in the conference going into the conference tournament.

So he was justifiably upset as he left the court after his second loss this evening.  I tried to console him as he approached the fence, calling out “Tough one!”.  Nate glared at me, pointed at me with his racket, and said to me through clenched teeth.

“Fuck you, Dad.”

I was dumbfounded, looked at him with what I am sure was bewilderment, tried not to cry.  All I could get out before Miriam jumped in between us and started yelling “GET AWAY FROM HIM, STEVE!” was “How could you say that?”.  All I did was turn away, pick up my folding chair, and walk away.  Miriam kept saying “stay away, don’t do anything, stay away”.  I just looked at her and asked “Please, is that really necessary?” as I kept walking to the parking lot.

Both performances were unfortunately what has become typical.  Saying it makes me very sad is an understatement.

Mir pulled in the driveway and minute behind me.  Inside the house, a discussion ensued, a discussion I really didn’t want to have.  Mir told me that I should sit down with Nate and tell him he shouldn’t use words like that.  I said that he is old enough to make that decision on his own.  Besides, it wasn’t necessarily the words, it was the total lack of respect — not only from Nate, but from Miriam.  And I told her that.

So the discussion turned to the question she asked me right after I was fired last year — where do I see our relationship going?  I told her that I am not really ready to discuss that, mainly because I am struggling with two issues, one that I have talked with her about many times and have continued to talk with her about — respect.  That leads to the issue I am not ready to discuss.

“Do you really want me to answer that question?  I really am not ready to talk about it.”

“Yes.”

“OK.  I don’t see our marriage going any where except for divorce.  But I really am not really ready to talk about that with you because I am still struggling with what that means and why I think that may be the only option.  Is it just the normal bumps every couple goes through and things will get better?  Is this just the phase in life we are going through?  I think I know the answer.  No.  Our problems are a lot more serious than that.”

And they are.  Honestly, after our discussion tonight, I don’t see any other alternative.  Respect is a huge issue, one that goes both ways, and it is painfully obvious that is not going to change.  She insists she will never be able to give me the respect I need, although she also insists that she is.  Which is it?  Washing clothes and cleaning the house is not respect, it is merely obligation — which will never, ever change.

She denies bringing the word ‘divorce’ into our marriage several years ago.  Says that she only said that word to get me into counseling.

She also said that I want a divorce because I crave a relationship.  Truer words have never been spoken.  A relationship is not what we have.

Don’t know when it is going to happen, but I think it will happen.

Cruiser Quest

My first car was going to be quite the chick magnet, I just knew it.  Somehow I had managed to save around $800 from mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, and washing dishes despite my penchant for wasting money on baseball cards or record albums.  In 1978, $800 was a decent amount of money, enough to purchase a little more than a clunker.. although not much more than a clunker.

I wanted a Dodge Charger or Challenger, a Chevy Camaro or Monte Carlo or Oldsmobile Cutlass, maybe a Ford Mustang.  My 16 year old mind didn’t think so much about being able to afford to maintain and insure the car.  It needed to be fast and cool, a cruising machine.  By 1978, muscle cars were still what most of my high school friends coveted in the small Central Illinois town where I lived.  Each Friday or Saturday night we descended on a small strip close to the McDonalds on MacArthur Boulevard in Springfield, Illinois.  A stream of shining vehicles with mag wheels and white lettered tires cruised slowly through a parking lot filled with teenagers sitting on cars, girls with big hair and tight Guess jeans strolling from car to car.

My Mom’s Chevy Caprice was not exactly the perfect cruising vehicle, pretty much the equivalent of driving a mini van these days.  Diligently I searched for the perfect car, found a few that these days would still turn heads, including a ’68 rag top Camaro that I nearly bought.  That same day, I did find the car I wanted and drove it home for my dad to see — a ’71 Dodge Charger with the 440 six pack engine and a vacuum operated hood scoop that popped up when a switch under the dash was turned on.  The car was purple with white opera top, white interior.  It flat out flew.

Dad took one look at the Charger and simply started shaking his head NO.

“If you don’t kill yourself, this car will spend more time in our driveway than it will on the road.  You won’t be able to afford it, especially the insurance and all the speeding tickets you will get.”

I couldn’t argue with him.  The first month I had my driver’s license, I had an accident and two traffic tickets.

“Steve, how about this?  I have a friend who is selling a nice car, in great shape and we can get it for a good price.  As long as you pay for the insurance and don’t ask me to pay for gas, I will chip in half for the car.”

Dad was good about stuff like that.  When I started mowing lawns and decided that a lawn tractor would get me more business (and it did), Dad loaned me the money I needed to finish paying for the tractor.  He knew what he was doing.  For the rest of the time I lived with my parents, he never had to mow the lawn again.  Once I had that car, his own car expenses went away and when I went to college, I had my own transportation to/from school.

My first car was the car that Dad found for me, a ’72 Plymouth Duster, red with the slant six engine, no air conditioning and black cloth interior, an AM radio, about as basic of a car as you can get.  There was so much room under the hood that I could stand underneath the hood to work on the engine.  It wasn’t the ultimate chick magnet cruiser, but it also wasn’t my Mom’s Chevy Caprice either.  Dad helped me install a nice under dash eight track stereo along with some heavy duty speakers.  I must have waxed that car at least once a week.  I had my cruiser.  Many a weekend, I cruised with my brother Mark and our friends Bob and Jack.

The Duster also had a large front bench seat, something I really appreciated when I started dating Tami.  That car holds some very sweet memories for me.  Before I was done with it, the rear body panels rusted so badly that the trunk was almost useless.  When the plastic front grille cracked and fell out, Dad and I replaced it with gold aluminum mesh left over from a screen door project Dad had left over.

That car was mine for five years.  I let the oil get too low and seized the engine.  Dad found a replacement engine at a junkyard, my brother Mark bought the car from me and drove it for a few years until my youngest brother, Paul, was ready for the car.

Eventually I did get the cruiser I wanted, a black ’86 Chevy Cavalier Z24, as well as a ’84 Yamaha Virago motorcycle.  They were both vehicles that got a lot of attention, but neither were as special as that first car.